“Thin Man” radio play at Orcas Center


Three former residents are returning to Orcas to produce a type of drama rarely seen: the radio play.

Standley and Janice Clausen and Judith Owens Lancaster are part of the seven-member Midnight Mystery Players production of the play about a radio program, which was based on the movie of Dashiell Hammett’s book, “The Thin Man,” in the 1930s. They will perform on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 7:30 p.m.

“The most important reason Orcas audiences should see this show is because it’s a unique form of drama that is rarely performed,” Standley said. “The listener or viewer becomes a participant because it requires imagination. Audiences not only listen to this show as if it were a radio program but also watch it as a behind-the-scenes historical recreation reflecting the American Museum of Radio.”

Those who appreciate witty dialogue will treasure the husband-and-wife mystery “The Thin Man,” with its cocktail-tippling socialite flatfoots Nick and Nora Charles. The glamour and biting remarks only make the craftily plotted twists, turns, and last-minute revelations all the more entertaining. In this performance, audiences are also rewarded with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of radio drama, the central form of household entertainment from the 1920s through the 1960s, before it was replaced by television.

The seven cast member troop, with all but the leads playing multiple roles, will be dressed in period costume, as Standley says was required of all radio actors even when no studio audience was present to see that they were in costume.

Standley, the producer, will play the announcer for the show and the lead in the band and the radio commercials that will be acted out between the acts for Lux toilet soap.

“It’s interesting to watch something being reproduced as close to the original as it can be done,” Standley said. “Commercials were always acted out on the radio by some of the cast members and even the stars of the show. The audience will get a behind the scenes look at how radio was produced, including the sound effects. In this show, the dog, Skippy, a central and popular character in the play, will be reproduced by sound too. I am one of the few people still alive who actually saw radio shows being made. It was an amazing thing to watch, as they often had a 15-piece orchestra right on the stage to provide the musical cues.”

Setting the time period for “The Thin Man” will be Orcatrazz and Beth Baker, who will perform period standards, including “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and “Sentimental Journey.”

Lancaster plays the commercial starlet, Jean, and Dorothy Wymant, the daughter of the missing thin man. Janice will act in multiple roles in the play, “which is known as doubling in radio,” Standley said. She will be the woman who is murdered, Julia Wolf, the co-conspirator Mimi, and the other commercial starlet Laura.

“There is a lot of of skullduggery going on in this play,” Standley said.

“The Thin Man” was Hammett’s last novel and the one for which he is most famous. The main characters were featured in a series of popular “Thin Man” films directed by S.S. Van Dyne. “The Adventures of the Thin Man” radio series, initially starring Les Damon, was broadcast on all four major radio networks during the years 1941 to 1950.

The Midnight Mystery Players have become well known regionally for their staging of vintage radio dramas.

Tickets to the play are $10. For more info or to purchase tickets, visit www.orcascenter.org or call 376-2281 ext 1 during box office hours, Thursday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.